The Common Cold Remedies Over The Counter Pain Relievers

Sometimes the common cold is accompanied by a variety of aches and pains. From a pounding headache to a sore back caused by hacking and coughing for days on end, these aches can often make a person suffering from a cold even more miserable than if they had to deal with the sniffles alone.

With symptoms like these, it’s important for people to find cold remedies that work. This is why many cold medicines incorporate a pain reliever to help people deal with some of these symptoms. Many different types of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are on the market.

Types of Pain Relievers

The two most common kinds of pain relievers are

  • acetaminophen (found in Tylenol®)
  • NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

The latter category includes such OTC medications as aspirin, ibuprofen (found in Advil® and Motrin®) and naproxen (found in Aleve®).

The specific way that acetaminophen operates to alleviate pain is still a bit of a mystery, though scientists do know that it works differently than NSAIDs. Acetaminophen works in the brain and the spinal cord, somehow blocking pain receptors and alleviating the sensations of pain. Acetaminophen is also a very effective fever reducer, which can come in handy if a cold is accompanied by any rise in body temperature.

NSAIDs work in the skin, joints and muscles, stopping the production of chemicals called prostaglandins that occur naturally in the body. Prostaglandins create pain in the body because they act as an early warning device, irritating nerve endings to signal that something is awry in the body. NSAIDs effectively suppress these chemicals to relieve this constant stimulation of nerve endings.

Pain Reliever Fact

While most products contain either acetaminophen or a type of NSAID, some products, such as Excedrin®, actually contain both acetaminophen and the NSAID aspirin.

Effects of OTC Pain Relievers

OTC pain relievers are very versatile. They can help reduce inflammation and swelling, common problems that can waylay the upper respiratory tract of someone with a cold. They can also help soothe the pain of a sore throat, lessen arthritis pain that may act up during a cold and help alleviate sinus pain and related headaches.

Possible Side Effects

OTC pain relievers can be used as needed and generally do not have major problems associated with ongoing use that conforms to the recommendations on the label. However, if you have used an OTC medication for more than 10 days and find that it is not helping the problem you are taking it for, or if you find that problem is becoming worse, be sure to consult with your physician. There may be a more serious underlying problem that needs to be addressed, either with alternative treatment or a prescription medication.

There can be side effects from OTC pain relievers, though this would normally happen only when they are taken in excess or over an extended period of time. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage when taken in extremely high doses, while NSAIDs can cause stomach and digestive tract problems when used too much over a period of time.

NSAIDs may also adversely affect blood pressure and even cause kidney damage when taken regularly over a period of several years. To protect yourself from these problems, consult with your doctor if you are considering using OTC pain relievers for any length of time. Children should not be given aspirin, as it can cause very serious health problems.

Resources (2007). Types of OTC Medicines and How They Work. Retrieved November 13, 2007, from the Family Doctor Web site: (2007). What Kind of Pain Reliever Should You Take? Retrieved November 13, 2007, from the Health A to Z Web site: